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Early Years

My life in music...

The inspiration, appreciation, blessings and challenges bring a sense of gratefulness for all that's been and all that's yet to come. To those who were pivotal and supportive along the way, and there have been many, my appreciation for you runs deep and you are never forgotten!

 

My attraction and luv for music goes back as far as I can remember.

With an interesting array of records in the house, my head with filled a diverse mix of sounds such as 

Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, movie soundtracks like Paint Your Wagon and Fiddler On The Roof, TV shows like American Bandstand, Hee Haw, Soul Train and Lawrence Welk. And there were the church hymns.

I was a shy kid, the youngest of 3 boys. My mother was Italian and a graphic artist and my father was Irish and a Marine Sergeant and Korean War veteran. Home life was turbulent but life was good if the music was playing and it would soon compete with my luv of basketball. Around age 7, after seeing David Cassidy with his Sunburst Fender Stratocaster and perfectly feathered hair singing 'I Can Feel Your Heartbeat', I now had to get my own guitar, even though that wasn't in the family budget.

 

Looking back on these days...

One thing was crystal clear in that the power of music was in the strength of a great songSome early favorites came from my first pieces of vinyl. Elton John's 'Greatest Hits', a 45 of Neil Young's 'Heart of Gold' and a KTEL album called 'Believe in Music'. The KTEL record was packed with a great selection. Songs like 'Brandy' (Looking Glass), 'Go All The Way' (The Raspberries), 'Let It Rain' (Derek and the Dominoes), 'Long Cool Woman' (The Hollies), 'Hold Your Head Up' (Argent), 'Summer Breeze' (Seals and Crofts) and 'Backstabbers' (The O'Jays)I was always fond of moody ballads. 'I Never Cry' by Alice Cooper,  'I Feel Like A Bullet In The Gun Of Robert Ford' by Elton John and 'All By Myself' by Eric Carmen were given endless spins on my little suitcase record player. My brothers were also spinning some vinyl that exposed me to different styles of RocknRoll. From Kevin it was progressive rock and from James it was the blues.

Then one special day...

I was soon exposed to an earful of serious rock albums from the 70's. It became clear to me just how powerful it was to experience an album from front to back. How important it was for the songs to be heard in that perfect, intended sequence and how it takes you on a musical ride. 

Led Zeppelin '2', Pink Floyd 'Wish You Were Here', Montrose (debut), Boston (debut), Journey 'Look Into the Future', Queen 'A Night at the Opera', Black Sabbath 'Masters of Reality', Ted Nugent (debut), Foghat 'Live', Heart 'Little Queen' and Yes 'Fragile' were some prime examples.

And then, a most iconic day...

A neighborhood friend Bob Auen held up the album cover of Kiss Alive' right in my face and from that moment on it was game over!  Seeing that iconic photo was life changing and fueled my desire, launching my dream of being in a band and getting on stage! Even then at age 11, it was crystal clear to me that time was ticking and the race was on to make my dreams come true. After all, I only had a lifetime to make it happen.

Luckily my brother had a guitar...

My oldest brother Kevin had a nylon string acoustic guitar with strings so high off the neck you could slide a pizza underneath them. It was virtually impossible to play but that didn't stop me from getting it in my hands and pouncing on it! He gave me much guidance and help and got me started by teaching chords and showing me songs.

Soon after, he acquired an imitation Gibson Les Paul Special and even though I was strictly told NOT to touch it, nothing was gonna stop me. Fortunately it wasn't long before my Mother took me guitar shopping to Montgomery Ward's in Oakland, Ca to buy me my very own axe, a 'Global' imitation Les Paul electric guitar for $67. My inspiration soared and I fiercely practiced trying to hone my skills.

 

The 70's were a great time for an aspiring young guitarist...

The music of the era was filled with many great bands and players to listen to. And aside from basketball, music was the only real thing of interest and anyone who was in either game was either an ally or competitor. Growing up in Alameda, Ca was a very special place and there were many aspiring young guitarists in my neighborhood. Honestly it seemed as if every other house on every block in town was home to a guitar hero in the making. There was Jim Stewart with his 'Memphis' dbl cutaway and Craig Brakebush playing his black Fender Stratocaster in the basement of his house demonstrating the solo for Pink Floyd's 'Money' and Zeppelin's 'Stairway To Heaven'. Or Tim Hill jamming on the porch of a friend's house near the infamous 'Jackson Park' (where the pot dealers were) playing UFO's 'Mother Mary' on his Gibson Flying V. This firmly embedded the sound of Michael Schenker into my ears! There was John Cruz (RIP) and Eddie Fontaine and their band 'Rockbound'. I remember John showing me how to play Rush's '2112' on the porch of his house on Liberty St and Eddies mind-blowing performance of Van Halen's 'Eruption' and UFO's 'Rock Bottom' at their gig in the BBQ area of Alameda's majestic 'Lincoln Park'. These were all mesmerizing, impactful and invaluable moments. Fuel for the fire.

My first real public performance...

At the age 12, with my first capable band 'Open Current', I played my very first gig. It was during lunch hour in 8th grade on the Lincoln School ampitheatre stage in Alameda, Ca. It was vocalist Scott Rowley, guitarist Steve 'Sky' Clems (band leader), my best friend 'Jimmi Ward' (guitarist now turned bassist), drummer Keith Davis and myself. Yes, 3 guitar players and no bassist. Together we enjoyed the rush of rocking a crowd! Jimmi and I were absorbing as much music as we could in our off hours from school in those days. Having fun practicing riffs on his infamous Kingston EKO guitar (aka 'Flying U'), our musical seeds were planted as it fed our musical hearts from that moment onward.

And there was a growing bond with another musician friend...

Together with close friend and guitarist Mike Carsey, we did massive amounts of woodshedding and both of us shared the same dream, to Rock the world! Our connection was very strong and we seemed to be functioning on a higher level. We would meet in the early morning hours after finishing our paper routes. With our Winchell's donuts, coffee and imitation Gibson Les Pauls we learned riffs and licks from Kiss, Aerosmith and AC/DC!

It was the perfect way to start the day, studying our heroes while on our way to becoming real guitar slingers.

We soon found our first great drummer in the slick and charismatic Joey Frye (RIP)!  Joey was such a sweet guy with massive talent, and he had the looks! While no official band was created, there were many jam sessions and good times.

My memory is a little blurry on this and I don't quite remember why that lineup didn't last longer as I know it would have amounted to something very special.

An amazing opportunity...

During my early years there was the added bonus of being an employee at two great record stores, the Record Factory and the Record Gallery These two situations provided me endless access to so much music of every style both new and old. These times allowed me access to the ultimate music library. My dear friends Leo Steccati (RIP) and Gerard 'Fud' Ford (RIP) became my adopted big brothers and they were filled with so much knowledge of music and the business. Their belief in me was priceless!

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